I thought America couldn't shock me after my few years there as an ex-pat! Today, I am shocked!
I've rewritten the words to a song that made me cry as a child. Today, the new words are making me cry.
I havent written on this blog for a while. Today it seems fitting that I do!
Have a look at the link! It's to my website
Trump Celebration song!
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I have been away a while. I haven't written much lately! I've been busy!
We moved back from Sweden to the UK and purchased a very ugly 1950's house! in December 2013. It hadn't seen any TLC since around 1980. A new strange land!!! It took 9 months. Longer (2 years) if you include the planning and preparation and aftermath. Nine months of highs and lows. 9 months of development and growth. It was a long hard labour. Unlike pregnancy, the labour itself has lasted 9 months and I have given birth to a monster! Like all mothers finally getting to see their baby, the euphoria of completion has almost eradicated the memory of the hideous process I have been through to transform The Ugly House into a beautiful home. Thankfully I took photos of the bloody gory mess along the way so that even rose coloured spectacles, flushing toilets and heating wont let me forget that it was beyond grim.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s always illuminating. With hindsight I could have made the whole build much easier and less mentally disturbing. Still, at least my windows get cleaned on a daily basis as I rock gently back and forth and lick them. I’m hoping by recording all my gems, insights and hindsights I can save anyone thinking of embarking on a building project for the first time some pain and money. I can also re-read it should I ever consider doing this to another house.
I admit, having done something once (or a hundred times) doesn’t make anyone an expert. Professional people get really pissed off with you when you give them some expert advice and tell them how to do their job on the basis that you had a go at it once and had a modicum (great word!) of success. Equally, I get really pissed off when ‘professional trades’ spout like an eternal font of knowledge when you do a bit of simple DIY like it’s rocket science:
‘Oh, you don’t wanna do it like that… You wanna do it like this’.
‘Oh ok. Thank you Fat Bastard Plumber! I’ll remember that next time I turn a tap on!’
That all said, I’ve decided, having gone through a renovation and building process it makes me an expert, able to impart my expertise and wisdom on to those who need it in a new blog. Not the ‘gloss and bollocks’ expertise you get elsewhere – but the truth – the ugly truth! You know me! Expect bad language and bad attitude! My hope is that by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly, you will avoid the bad and the ugly in your own beautiful home renovation projects! Its all in a new website - The Ugly House! I might even be sharing some top interior design tips! I'm an expert!!!!
Having finished the build I have had the most amazing time filling the house and transforming it on the inside. I want to share special little things that make a house, even an Ugly one, a home. In my blog and in the shop I will be sharing the lovely little things that brighten up my home. You'll find stuff in the shop that you will not find on the high street: Quirky; Designer exclusive; one off's; hand crafted gifts and home-ware. Perfect to buy for presents but be warned - if you buy - you'll want to keep! Expect funny descriptions of the products!
I now have to aims for my new website:
1) To share The Ugly House story with you in The Blog and hopefully amuse, encourage and inspire
2) To share the beautiful things I fill the Ugly House with in The Ugly House shop
I think The Ugly House is now beautiful. The girl done good! My mission now is to fill it with beautiful, quirky and sparkly home-ware and gifts (ie shop til I drop!)! There is nothing in The Ugly House shop that isn't in The Ugly House. They are in The Ugly House because they make it more beautiful... The sparkle to add to any home improvement you are mad enough to embark upon!
Saturday, September 12, 2015
When my sister called me, excited to tell me she had got us tickets to the Mind, Body, Spirit wellbeing Festival I resisted the urge to exclaim ‘WTF!’
I decided I should go with an open mind… after all something so benign – what harm could it do? I was surprised when I asked for predictions of how good it would be on a scale of 1= WTF to 10 being ‘far out man’ that my sister – spiritual as she is, expected it to be a 4. I did too. Upon arrival I almost ran back out again when I was confronted with the ‘omchanting tent’. Way too WTF on my scale already. I needed to lie down in the Mantra lounge. The brochure did boast offering ‘like minded people real-time shared experiences and sensory indulgences’. Real-time? I was already having an out of body moment and I hadn’t been there 2 minutes.
Almost immediately after chanting we came upon the ‘Crystal Clear Psychics’, a gathering of tarot wielding, spirit chattering, angel sycophantic charlatans. I’m not like-minded and I mind! There is a reason psychics don’t win the lottery and faith healers don’t work in hospitals. There were lots of them, sat at a little table touting for business. Each person had introductory blub. Some boasted being psychic from birth. How would they know that? Maybe from past life regression or from their spiritual guides. Personally I think there’s a medical explanation for voices in your head but I’m not a Doctor. Some boasted they could answer specific questions (only the ones they knew the answer to). One had the absolute audacity to say they were honest!
A well dressed man – not new age in the slightest- mistook my interest for interest and offered a reading with one of his motley crew. For just £35 for 20 minutes I could receive a reading. I’d read enough already! £35 quid! It was crystal clear. I could see where the posh suit came from. I said politely that I was an atheist and shared no belief whatsoever in what he was offering. I think my sister was embarrassed by my bluntness so she had a reading. She wouldn’t let me sit in. I don’t know why not. She returned enlightened by £35, comforted by the guardianship of her archangel Michael and by the suggestion that she was about to embark on a new lucrative career in healing – the psychic suggested crystals. I’m tempted to do a bit of it myself at £110 per hour.
Whilst I waited I had a liver cleanse juice beverage of lime, apple and beetroot. It turns out, 3 hours after drinking it, I had the added and unexpected benefit of a colonic cleanse too.
I confess I got caught out. I was asked if I wanted to know what colour I was. I was a little confused. She told me she was referring to my personality. I is black, surely? Turns out, after some magical mathematical calculations based on my birth date I am Yellow. She described a yellow person. All sunshine and confidence and intellect. ‘That’s me,’ I enthused. I was so enthused I purchased her book. Nobody, when told positive things about themselves is likely to say ‘Nah, I’m fuck all like that’. In her book it said the tricky side of being yellow, when out of balance, is I can be sour, like a lemon, and ‘self centred’ and ‘egotistical’ and my words can be ‘direct and biting’ with critical and sarcastic humour. My sister was suddenly enthused too. ‘That’s just like you,’ she enthused. ‘Nah,’ I said, ‘That’s fuck all like me’.
My best purchase was ‘Smooth Again’ – a ‘natural way to remove hair and exfoliate’. The woman got a miniature micro crystal sanding pad (crystals again!) and sanded my arm. Within seconds I had a hairless smooth patch. I didn’t stop to think that while it worked on soft fine arm hair it might not be so effective on my five o’clock shadow. I was so impressed I go two. I am hairy – but I do have a daughter too. There is a little finger attachment with its own little micro crystal sanding pad. I asked if that was for use on bum cracks. Apparently, its not. It’s for mustaches. I think they are missing a marketing opportunity there! Have you read the Veet reviews? It burns!
Excited, when I got home I sandpapered my daughter’s legs – in black jeans that quickly became hairy and white from dead skin. I think I sanded a little too hard as the dog got rather excited by the smell of burning flesh and began licking my jeans, my daughter’s legs and the sofa. It worked beautifully on her legs but she’s never shaved them so it was nice fine hair. I have never waxed or shaved my lips and used my little finger attachment to have a go. It worked but now I have sore, red, stingy skin. It’s rather unsightly! Maybe I rubbed a little rigorously. The woman said it worked on legs, arms, armpits, facial hair and bikini line. I’ve since found out it doesn’t work on all hair but I guess she wasn’t considering the challenges of serious brillo pad stubble. I think a Brazilian is well beyond its capacity.
I managed to avoid Budda Magic, New world Creations and crystal singing bowls (although all indications would suggest that’s where the big bucks are – in crystals! Crystal Clear Psychics at least!) but got caught one final time. This time it was with Salty Lamps. I wasn’t sold on the Salty Lamp’s ability to remove positive ions and electric smog or in its claim that it would enhance my meditative experiences, having never sat still long enough to meditate. I wasn’t even swayed by Feng Shui art connoisseurs’ appreciation of the lamp or it’s Himalayan credentials. What sold me was the assertion that it stopped snoring. Hubby snores like a train. If it stopped him the festival would have lived up to its purpose of enhancing my wellbeing. When I got home and read the leaflet enclosed with my Salty Lamp there was no reference to its ability to stop snoring. In the cold light of my Salty Lamp I suspect I was had. The 15 amp glow was not enlightening at all. I lifted it to rest it on top of the headboard above hubby’s pillow. I was suddenly, for the first time today, actually really enlightened. It’s a massive lump of salt. It’s really heavy. If that were to fall on his head, it would indeed stop his snoring.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Hubby has a particular approach to touts who hassle us in tourist traps. Actually his approach is not limited to that particular context. He does it everywhere to anyone! His inspiration for getting rid of unwanted attention is Clarence Beeks. He was the inside trader in the 1983 film ‘Trading Places’. I know! Shocking! 1983 FFS! 32 years ago! How old does that make you feel? Anyway, when hubby is approached by a stranger, he simply does a ‘Clarence Beeks’. He pauses whatever it is he is doing, looks them straight between the eyes (and this is the only time he will make eye contact – otherwise he says making eye contact with a stranger is dangerous) and says ‘Fuck off” before resuming whatever it was he was doing before the interruption, like nothing happened.
Asked every two seconds, by touts in Times Square this month, if I wanted to go on a ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour was annoying. They may warrant a classic Beeks but I am not hubby! I have a modicum of emotional intelligence. These people are just trying to survive in a tough city. I have no idea how much they make per sale but I suspect it is commission based only and shite. They might do better though if they didn’t snatch the leaflet they hand you straight back when you say ‘No thank you’ (because I am polite). I might have perused it at my leisure in a Starbucks and decided to hop on one of their open top buses in 90F in an exhaust fume filled city, if they had given me five minutes to think about it. When this hassle happens all day even a Clarence Beeks seems like a mild response. Sometimes you get a jolly ticket tout. One tout asked ‘Why not?’ when I declined. I was able to honestly tell him I had a plane to catch in three hours. It made him laugh in a way that Clarence Beeks would not have. He wished me a good trip.
Sometimes using hubby’s approach would be better. We asked for directions once in Atlanta. A very friendly man offered to lead the way. One wrong turn later down a rather dark back street and we were asked for money. We deducted the cost of dry-cleaning our immediately soiled pants and gave him all the remaining money we had. Luckily we aren’t entirely stupid and only had $20 cash. You can’t be too careful in big cities!
New York claims the title of the most unfriendly city in the world. Of the Cities I have visited I think Moscow wins. When I nicely asked a 6’ 8” cubic Muscovite doorman to pose with my cute little 4’8” son he did a Clarence Beeks on me! How rude!
Knowing the dangers of big cities I made the mistake of making eye contact with a New Yorker and asking for help. I say ‘mistake’ because I am conditioned by past experience and Hubby into thinking we should never ask for help in cities. Our biggest arguments stem from us being lost, traipsing around in unfamiliar places and his abject refusal to ask anyone for directions. In fairness to him the Atlanta experience favours his approach. This time, I was desperate for help and needed insider knowledge. Part of my mid-life crisis has involved getting my nose pierced. I left my nose stud at home and had scoured New York for days for a replacement before it healed up, but to no avail. I was stood outside a pawn shop and a woman asked if I needed help, so strictly speaking I didn’t ask. I didn’t do a Clarence Beeks either. She said she could help and phoned a friend. She spoke to him, possibly in Russian. A New Yorker Russian… How unfriendly can you get? She handed the phone to me and told me to tell him what I needed. I resisted saying ‘Big cocks and vodka’. It didn’t matter anyway – he couldn’t understand me. She tried a different tact and told us to follow her as she meandered off 5th Avenue and up a side street. She said she would be sacked if her boss noticed she was missing. I was panicking. Images of Atlanta and Russian mafia combined in my head, which wasn’t nearly as scary as the look hubby gave me. Full Clarence Beeks! Still, I didn’t want to be as rude as he is so I resisted running away and I followed the lady politely in my best British accent. She talked incessantly and kept stressing that we were tourists and British. I couldn’t work out if this was in sympathy or mockery. She took us into an indoor jewelry market – which seemed auspicious given my need. She introduced me to an Egyptian man. I started to wonder if I was in a James Bond Movie and I might get some vodka after all. The Egyptian said he could help. I waited for the punch line… the angry boss making a cameo appearance…waving a gun, her hand held out for payment…waving a gun, Marilyn Monroe singing ‘diamonds are a girls best friend’… anything other than the totally unexpected ending. The lady simply wished us a lovely stay in New York and left. I was shocked!
The Egyptian sold me 2 gold and diamond nose studs so cheaply I accidentally said out loud ‘Is that all?” when he told me the price. She delivered! There was nothing in it for her. She was just genuinely nice and helpful. I left the jewelers in a daze, needing a cup of tea and said rather too loudly ‘Where’s a Starbucks when you need one’. A complete stranger said ‘Over there’. And sure enough there was!
How sad is it that we expect the worst – to be cheated, ripped off, fleeced or worse. Had I done a Clarence Beeks my hole would have healed …and I would have missed out on a wonderful New York life affirming experience.
Clarence Beeks… “Fuck off!”
Monday, April 27, 2015
I used to hate it when I was a teacher...
Sorry, found it hard not to see that as a complete sentence!
I used to hate it when I was a teacher…
Sorry, I completed that with ‘once a teacher, always a teacher’ My god! This blog is way off track and I haven’t even started.
Third time lucky!
I used to hate it when I was a teacher and people used to assume that they knew exactly what my job was on the basis that they had been to school. Like a bloke assuming he knows what a gynecologist does on a daily basis simply because he’s diddled the odd donut… actually maybe that’s a fair assumption.
I’ll start again…
Having done something once doesn’t make anyone an expert. Professional people get really pissed off with you when you give them some expert advice and tell them how to do their job on the basis that you had a go at it once and had a modicum (great word!) of success. Equally, I get really pissed off when ‘professional trades’ spout like an eternal font of knowledge when you do a bit of simple DIY like it’s rocket science.
‘Oh, you don’t wanna do it like that… You wanna do it like this’.
‘Oh ok. Thank you Fat Bastard Plumber! I’ll remember that next time I turn a tap on!’
Anyway. That all said, I’ve decided, having gone through a building process once it makes me an expert, able to impart my expertise and wisdom on to those who need it. And believe me… if you are about to embark on a building project, you need it!
When I publish all my findings, I shall do it in a sensible order but today my head is filled with top tips for a perfect paint job!
I read a website page with top tips from the Paint Doctor. It was rubbish. The top tip was “don’t hang off your ladder like a monkey.” Very silly advice. Nothing to do with painting and not very professional at all.
I have much better advice:
1) Use white* paint
That’s it really! I am an expert! I’m an expert as a result of a secondary tip. Do the painting yourself because by the time you get to painting your new build/extension/refurb you will have no money left to pay ‘professionals’ because of unexpected ‘extras’ you have had to pay the builder for along the way! You’ll decide that it’s one thing you can do yourself. You’ll think ‘How hard can it be painting a whole house? A monkey hanging off a ladder could do it! It’s not very technical or skilled is it? You certainly don’t need to be a Paint Doctor!
Use white paint!
If you use different colours in each room when painting the whole house you’ll need shit loads of brushes and you’ll have to wash them properly instead of painting everywhere white and putting the brushes in a plastic bag overnight and not washing them at all. Ever.
You’ll never need to wash them because every day you will have to repaint the same walls, over the nail pops: like cake pops only balls of plaster that fall off the walls and ceiling like raindrops (only hard and dry) – all day, every day and leave holes that have to be replastered and repainted. Again and again! They taste nothing like cake pops either. I know this because they fall into your mouth whilst you sleep!
And cracks. You have to fill and paint over the cracks! Not the builders bum arse cracks that have haunted me for the last 9 months... Wall and ceiling cracks! The ceilings fall out with the walls on a daily basis. The joins are so full of filler that they are curved. This is fine if both the wall and ceiling are white. Hideously noticeable if the colours contrast. A monkey hanging of a ladder couldn’t do the ‘cutting in’ on those edges! See how I slipped in a technical term or two there! Monkey! Ladder!
You’ll admire the fleck of velvet wall paper in Indian restaurants given that your own walls will be hairy in all the wrong places – like a monkey hanging off a ladder dipped his brush (probably a euphemism!) in a shit load of dust and made homemade furry patterns. I say ‘his’… any self respecting female would clean up all the building dust and debris before painting.
Hubby often refers to the 6 p’s! I think it’s something to do with being married to me for 20 years! Piss poor preparation leads to piss poor performance. This applies to painting. Preparation is everything. Sanding, cleaning, masking… all essential if you want just the walls to be white and for the finish not to look like a monkey hanging off a ladder flicked white paint everywhere (probably another euphemism)! As it happens, speckled white paint on black slate was a design feature I had planned for the floor. I’d also planned it for the windows, light fittings, furniture, pets, children and my face. I feel it gives a symbiotic flow to the colour scheme. We all match!
I love skiing. Except when it snows! When it snows you get snow blindness and it’s really hard to see the contours of the slope. Painting in white is a bit like that. The first coat onto pink plaster is eva so easy. After that, it’s fucking impossible. Months later you’ll see ‘grey’ bits where you haven’t covered the wall thoroughly. Apparently the Paint Doctor calls it ‘holidays’ – where you’ve run your roller dry and gone too far spreading your paint. And he went to paint university to come up with that! I’ve run my brush seriously dry! (not a euphemism!). I think a monkey hanging off a ladder could have done better!
Actually – the Paint Doctor went to paint university to become a Paint Doctor and his top tip was ‘Don’t hang off your ladder like a monkey’. On reflection I can see the wisdom in that!
* Be warned! There are 50 shades of white. You’d think white would be a simple choice but oh no! there are warm whites (read cream) and cool whites – like light bulbs – but that’s a whole other story! Buy shit loads of the same paint. It doesn’t mix and match! And never buy bathroom paint and try to paint it onto raw plaster. It’s like snot! Oh, and if you see a monkey with a brush– they are shit hot at hanging off ladders but not so good at painting!
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Suddenly, after 28 weeks and 3 days the building work on my house is done. Yesterday there were 4 builders sorting the tarmac driveway, two electricians finishing the outside lights, a tiler and a carpenter. Today, they have all but departed. Even the blue portaloo went. My house isn't complete… but to all intents and purposes there remains only finishing off and snagging, to be done by one remaining builder. (He must have done something very bad to be left behind!).
The builders have worked 8 – 4.30, 6 days a week for 26 weeks (they had 2 weeks off at Christmas but even came in then- I rashly promised them Christmas dinner if my kitchen was in). There have been between 2 and 18 people on site for the entire process. Typically there have been around 10 people here daily… and me.
For 28 weeks my daily contact has been the builders. And now they are done. They have started an extension round the corner. Quite by accident I took a wrong turn yesterday and saw their vans parked out side the new building project. I think I felt envy. This is typical of someone who has been in an abusive relationship. They miss it when it’s over.
In fact I think I need therapy. I have Stockholm syndrome! The term comes from a bank robbery (would you believe it was in Stockholm?!!!) where the bank robber held four employees captive for 131 hours. Upon release the hostages felt a paradoxical emotional bond with their captor. It is also known as Survival Identification Syndrome. It is a psychological phenomenon where the hostages have empathy and feelings towards their captor. Having lived in Sweden I can understand this as no one speaks to each other. It must have been such an enjoyable novelty to spend so much time with a complete stranger!
The factors contributing to Stockholm Syndrome are:
- The crisis lasts for several days or longer
- The hostage takers remains in contact with the hostage
- The hostage takers show some kindness towards the hostage or do not harm them
- There is perceived inability to escape the situation
I spent approximately 1428 hours with the builders. I think I qualify on the time front. I couldn’t escape them for fear of deviation from the plans if I left them to their own devices. And they had shit loads to do so they had to put in the hours. I was a prisoner in my own home… which they demolished and rebuilt around me. I was in constant contact with them. I was asked approximately 100 questions a day ranging from incomprehensible ones like ‘Which way would you like your soffits’ (I have found that lengthways is best) to “Can I borrow your Fairy’ (for an extra tight fit). If I had a minute for every time I was asked if I had a minute, I could while away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers!
I have been in crisis for most of the 1428 hours. It’s had an impact. I feel anxious when I leave the house, mostly incase a wall has been built in the wrong place or a wrong wall knocked down in my absence. I also feel anxious that the dog will bite one of the builders while I’m out. To try and make friends with him, they have fed him so much pork pie that he had internal bleeding and had to go to the emergency vets. He loves the regulars! He too has Stockholm syndrome.
People in stressful situations who develop Stockholm Syndrome do anything to survive. I made around 40 cups of coffee for my captors every day. I made them breakfast butties on a Friday and a full English on a Saturday. I wore baggy jeans without a belt on so I showed my arse crack every time I bent down… just to fit in. I walked around all day with a pencil behind my ear, holding a paintbrush and eating pork pie (that the dog left). I may even have internal bleeding. I couldn’t drink builders’ tea though. I like milky weak stuff, but even that has got darker, like my spirit. I did draw the line at scratching my bollocks in sweat pants reminiscent of Rocky Balboa in his finest hour. Maybe there’s hope for me yet?
My captors were nice to me on occasion. Once I threw a wobbly and they bought me 2 litres bottle of coke because I couldn’t find my can of coke and cried… a lot. I didn’t cry because of the lost coke. I cried because I was being held hostage on a building site and was having a breakdown… but it was a kind gesture. Hurrying up, not standing around drinking 40 cups of coffee, and finishing the job and fucking off quickly might have had a better psychological impact on my mental health but I appreciated the coke at the time. I think we were about 12 weeks into the build at that point. I certainly didn’t feel able to escape the situation at any point.
I shall end up like Patty Hurst, the Californian newspaper heiress who was kidnapped by revolutionary militants in 1974. She joined them in a robbery. I’ll be hanging around building sites pretending to be a sub-contractor. I know all the terminology. I can talk flanges and ring mains and spirit levels and I reckon I could do a better job than the tiler who walked off site half way though the tiling yesterday because he had to cut too many tiles to maintain the twisted wonky pattern he had created. Luckily my builder will step in to finish the job. He will have to even stay longer now!!!
I don’t feel ready to let them go. They do have some finishing off to do and I’ve a feeling the snag list will keep them busy for quite a while… not because they’ve lot lots to correct but because I will be very demanding on the final finish of the house. My excuse? Stockholm syndrome!